Eric M. "Winkle" Brown
Eric M. "Winkle" Brown is the British Royal Navy's most decorated Fleet Air Arm pilot.
During his 31-year career, he flew a world-record 487 aircraft types and performed a
record-shattering 2,407 carrier landings. Born in 1919 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Brown
joined the Edinburgh University Air Unit in 1937 to begin his first serious flight
training. As an exchange student in Germany, he was expelled from that country at the
beginning of World War II and entered the Royal Navy. In 1941, Brown joined the 802
Squadron, the first unit to be assigned British escort carrier duty. While serving on the
HMS Audacity, he scored two Focke-Wulf 200 kills during convoy protection
After that assignment, he was assigned to the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE)
Farnborough to perform aircraft trials for escort carrier suitability and begin his
accomplished career as a test pilot. In 1944, Brown flew his first captured Italian and
German aircraft and became the chief naval test pilot at Farnborough. As the war in Europe
came to a close in the spring of 1945, he was appointed as the RAE enemy aircraft flight
commander responsible for acquiring enemy technology and flying enemy aircraft for
subsequent Allied use. This position took him throughout Germany at the end of the war,
during which time he flew 55 types of captured German aircraft-including the only Allied
powered flight of the Me-163B.
While in Germany, he also interrogated German aviation
legends such as Hermann Goering and Willy Messerschmitt. In December 1945, Brown made the
world's first jet landing on an aircraft carrier. He was next promoted to be commanding
officer of the Farnborough Aerodynamics Flight and served in that position until 1949,
ushering the United Kingdom into the jet and supersonic ages. This was followed by an
operational tour and a subsequent exchange tour at the Flight Test Division of the Naval
Air Test Center at Patuxent River, Maryland. There he helped introduce the British steam
catapult and angled carrier deck to the Americans, and flew several of the initial trials
with these systems.
Following this, he became the 804 Squadron commander at Royal Navy Air
Station (RNAS) Lossiemouth and the commander (air) of RNAS Brawdy. In 1958, Brown returned
to Germany as the head of the British Naval Air Mission in order to reintroduce aviation
to the German Navy. In 1961, he was appointed deputy director of the Naval Air Warfare
Division at the Admiralty in London, and was then assigned as the naval attach to Germany.
He finished his military career as a captain in 1970 as the RNAS Lossiemouth commander.
After that, Brown served as chief executive of the British Helicopter Advisory Board,
chief executive and vice president of the European Helicopter Association and president of
the Royal Aeronautical Society. He lives near London and is retired.
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In 1969, then-Captain Brown was assigned as commander of Royal Navy Air
Station Lossiemouth, United Kingdom. This assignment was the last in his
phenomenal 31-year career in which he flew 487 different aircraft types and
performed 2,407 carrier landings-both world records.